Gilbert Otto Maienknecht

September 3, 1919 – February 3, 2014

Gilbert Otto Maienknecht was born to Otto Maienknecht and Mollie Christofferson-Maienknecht in Chatham, Michigan on September 3, 1919. From an early age, Gilbert had a love of reading and knew he wanted to be a newspaper reporter. He attended Michigan State University and graduated from Northen Michigan University. He earned Master's degrees in Journalism and Education from the University of Iowa. He obtained a doctorate in Education from Indiana University. Gilbert served his country as an enlisted man, then promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant in the US Army in WWII, engaging in combat in several battles, including the D Day invasion of Normandy. He later served as an intake officer for war crimes prisoners at Nuremburg. He married his college sweetheart, Frances Layne in 1945. They were married for 67 years, until her death in 2012. They called Mt. Pleasant, MI home for over 50 years. His first civilian job was as a reporter for the Green Bay Gazette. In 1948, Dr. Maienknecht joined the faculty of Central Michigan University. At CMU, he built the Department of Journalism, formally established in 1959, and continued as Professor and Chair until his retirement in 1983. He integrated the disciplines of Information Services, Central Life Publications and Journalism, to provide students a laboratory to apply their studies with hands-on experiences. A PhD program in Journalism was established under his leadership. Dr. Maienknecht considered it a privilege to teach and influence the thousands of students he encountered through the years, many of whom went on to successful careers in communications.
Throughout his career he received many awards and recognitions. Most notably, he was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, and was the inaugural inductee to the Central Michigan Hall of Fame, earning him the title of "Father of CMU Journalism". Dr. Maienknecht loved teaching and empowering students to achieve success in academics and in life. He will be best remembered as a man of highest integrity, devoted husband and father, generous mentor and loyal friend. He had a strong sense of community and civic duty and was a long time member of the Lions Club and supporter of Little League baseball. He was characterized by his honesty, humility, sense of humor, warm chuckle, fierce loyalty, love of family, exceptional storytelling, and use of pep talks and slogans.. He had a passion for sports-from his youth as an athlete, to coaching Little League baseball, to becoming a dedicated fan of college sports, especially the University of Michigan. He passed away peacefully on February 3, 2014 at age 94, watching a Michigan basketball game.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Frances, and son, Gilbert Layne Maienknecht. He is survived by his daughter, Julianne (Donald) Morath of Sacramento, CA, his daughter- in- law, Helen Maienknecht of Bowling Green, OH; six grandchildren, Mollie Morath, Alexandra (Marc) Morath-Shap, Christopher (Patti) Morath, Todd (Suzi) Morath; Peter (Melissa) Maienknecht and Brian Maienknecht; nine great grandchildren, and two more to be born this month. With characteristic discipline and tenacity, this year he completed a collection of favorite stories that he told to his children and grandchildren. The published book was gifted to each great grandchild, so they, too, could become enchanted by the perfect choice of word, and enjoy his crisp and engaging writing style. The legacy of personal stories provides insight into the young boy who became "Old Grandpa". He returns to his final resting place next to Fran in his beloved state of Michigan.
A visitation will be held at Clark Family Funeral Chapel on Monday, February 10, 2014 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Rite of Committal will follow in Calvary Cemetery with Fr. Thomas Held presiding. Those wishing to remember Gilbert are encouraged to donate to: The Gilbert O. Maienknecht Scholarship for Merit, 454 Moore Hall, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859.
You may view Gilbert's obituary online and send a condolence to the family, light a memorial candle, or place a memorial donation at

Funeral Home

Clark Family Funeral Chapel & Cremation Service
114 S. Bradley Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858
(989) 775-9943
Published in The Morning Sun on Feb. 7, 2014